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Anxiety as a technology of rule: the violent crafting of subject and territory in Balochistan

Ahmad, Mahvish ORCID: 0000-0003-1807-8028 (2018) Anxiety as a technology of rule: the violent crafting of subject and territory in Balochistan. In: Anxiety and Authority in South Asia, 2018-04-06 - 2018-04-07, Princeton University, Princeton, United States, USA. (Submitted)

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Balochistan has long been a site of existential angst for the state. The British feared that Russian, Ottoman, and German agents would rally anti-colonial ‘tribes,’ mullahs, and Communists against the Raj. Pakistan has feared Indian, Afghan, and American support for separatist Baloch. Its geostrategic position and oil, gas, and minerals exacerbate this anxiety, especially after a $46 billion Chinese investment to connect landlocked, southwestern Xinjiang to Gwadar Port on Balochistan’s coast. This paper investigates entanglements of anxiety with statecraft in Balochistan in a contemporary moment characterized by extraordinary state violence: including disappearances, torture, ‘kill-and-dumps,’ ‘encounter killings,’ and army operations. To historically situate this violence, it refers to other, similar moments: a 1918 military expedition against those refusing conscription into the Imperial Army, and the 1973-1977 operation against insurgents protesting the dismissal of Balochistan’s first provincial government. Based on a 10-month ethnography, and a close reading of newspaper debates with army and government press releases, this paper uncovers how anxiety about Pakistan’s present survival and future prosperity resolves itself by seeking and locating its object of fear in the figure of the Indian-funded Baloch. This displacement of anxiety produces what a schoolteacher called an ‘andha dhun,’ a blind fog: The overwhelming sensation that no one and nothing can be fully known. This ‘andha dhun’ acts as a “phantasmic social force” (Taussig 1991: 101), disciplining Baloch as they navigate a terrain constantly reconfigured by a state ‘fixing’ its anxiety through cantonments and checkpoints, changing alliances with militias, and sudden, unannounced violence.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Author
Divisions: Sociology
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JC Political theory
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Date Deposited: 28 Jan 2020 10:33
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 11:13

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